Something was awoken in the Raiders this week. That awakening came on offense. They scored their most points of the season with four touchdowns against what was statistically the best defense in the NFL coming in. A defense that had just come off a shutout of the Jets - the same team that beat the Raiders in the season opener.
Unfortunately, for every score the Raiders offense had, the defense gave up a score. And then one more score on a field goal which was the difference in the game in the 31-28 loss.
Let's recount the top and bottom performances in this heartbreaker.
Even with the game-ending interception, Carr still lands in the Top Baller spot this week. Really, he shouldn't have been put in the situation where he had to continue to force the ball down the field.
What Carr did was make big play after big play when the Raiders needed it most. Right from the start, he was on fire. On the third play of the game, he saw Andre Holmes had beaten Brandon Flowers on a go route and his threw a perfect strike to Holmes, in stride who went 77-yards for the touchdown. It would turn out to be only the beginning of his record-setting day.
After the Chargers came back to score two touchdowns, Carr went back to work to pull the Raiders back in the game. Despite two drops on the same drive, he connected with James Jones for 17 yards, and on third and 7, had a 30-yard back shoulder completion to Holmes. Then on third and four from the six-yard line, he threw a laser to Jones over the middle for the touchdown to tie it up again.
Just before halftime, Carr led the Raiders on another drive with an 18-yard completion to Jones and a 12-yard completion to Holmes and a 9-yard connection with Denarius Moore which put them in what should be easy field goal range from 53 yards out for Janikowski but he missed it and they headed into the locker room tied 14-14.
Carr was only emboldened by his first half performance and in his first drive of the second half, he led them to another touchdown. Just like the first touchdown of the game, it was on the third play he connected with his receiver who took it the distance -- perfect strike to Brice Butler who streaked 47-yards for the score.
The Chargers once again answered with a score of their own to tie it back up again. But midway through the fourth quarter, Carr would put the Raiders ahead once again. This time, after torching the Chargers all day through the air, the running lanes opened up to help him out. Then Carr finished it off with his fourth touchdown pass of the day. He rolled right, waited for Holmes to break open and hit him in the back corner of the endzone.
The Chargers came back to score 10 unanswered which meant Carr would have to drive for either a game-tying field goal or a game winning touchdown. After two completions to Butler and Jones, he had the Raiders in Chargers territory with plenty of time. Then the play call was to look for single coverage on Brice Butler. He got that coverage but Chargers corner Jason Verrett was not fooled by the fake underneath on the slow-and-go. He had perfect coverage to beat Butler to the ball and intercept it.
Carr's four touchdown passes matched his season total coming in along with career highs in every category including passing yards (282) and passer rating (107.7).
Everywhere you turned, it seemed like TJ Carrie was making a play for the Raiders. Two weeks ago, he beat out Chimdi Chekwa to become the Raiders' nickel back and in this game the seventh round rookie proved he deserved that promotion. He gave up just one catch on the day and added two passes defended. His first pass defended came in the endzone to force the Chargers to look elsewhere for a touchdown. His second pass defended came late in the second quarter after the Raiders had tied it at 14 all, he stayed with his man downfield and had perfect position to nearly pick it off. The drive ended on the next play.
On the Chargers' first drive of the second half, Carrie forced two incompletions with tight coverage. The second put the Chargers in third and 29. After a short catch, and holding penalty on the long field goal attempt, the Chargers were forced to punt. Philip Rivers stayed away from him the rest of the day.
Along with his promotion on defense, he got one as a return man as well. He had been the primary punt return specialist through four games with Latavius Murray handling kick returns. This week he was returning both punts and kicks and was a thorn in the sides of the Chargers' coverage teams.
His first punt return went 19 yards to set the Raiders up at the 50-yard line. His next punt return, he made his only mistake when he bobbled the catch and was downed at the 17-yard line. In the third quarter, he had a 36-yard kick return to give the Raiders decent field position at the 38-yard line. Next punt return to start the fourth quarter, he weaved through traffic for 11 yards to put them in business at the 50-yard line. The Raiders used the favorable field position to drive for a touchdown and a 28-21 lead midway through the fourth.
The Raiders average drive start was the 31-yard line with just one drive starting inside the 20-yard line.
Jones has proven to be the best free agent addition the Raiders had this off-season. He has by far been the most steady hands (catching the ball) on this team. He led the Raiders in catches again, with 5 receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown. On the Raiders second touchdown drive, he had a 17-yard catch and the TD catch from 6 yards out. The TD catch was an extremely high degree of difficulty. Carr threw it on a rope, traveling a distance of about ten yards. Jones had a defender draped all over him and he hadn't even turned around yet when the pass was thrown. Yet somehow when he turned, the ball was right on him and he hauled it in for the score.
On the following drive, he pulled in an 18-yard catch. Then two plays later, he laid some fine downfield blocking on a bubble screen that freed up Andre Holmes for a 12-yard catch and run. That drive he had his one mistake of the day when he pushed off and was called for offensive pass interference. He also dropped the ball but due to the penalty, it wouldn't have mattered had he caught it. That kept his streak of pulling in 26 catchable balls intact this season.
He showed off his superb blocking skills again on the Raiders first drive of the second half, when Brice Butler snagged a pass and Jones helped allow Butler to go 47 yards untouched. Jones had the final catch of the day when he pulled on in for 9 yards on the final drive that put the Raiders in Chargers territory.
D-Mac is running with a renewed sense of confidence. He even broke a few tackles in this one and saw his average jump to 5.7 yards per carry on 14 carries. His first key run came on the Raiders second touchdown drive. On third and 8, he went for 12 yards to keep the drive alive. He had a 6-yard run on the drive as well. He had another 6-yard run on the Raiders first touchdown drive of the second half. On the following drive, he broke off a 17-yard run. McFadden was a big part of the Raiders' final touchdown drive. He had a run in which he spun out of a tackle, kept his feet and picked up 12 yards. Later in the drive he had a run for 7 yards to put the Raiders in first and goal at the ten yard line. On the next play, he ran for 4 yards and they scored on the next play. His one mistake was being one of the five drops the Raiders had in the first half on a long ball up the sideline that clanks right off his hands. It would not have been an easy catch even for a wide receiver.
Another solid game from the Raiders left tackle. He allowed just one pressure in the game while blocking Dwight Freeney most of the game. He was also very good in run blocking, setting the edge on a few key runs. On the Raiders drive to end the first half, he plowed the way for Maurice Jones-Drew to go for 9 yards to set up third and one. A few plays later, he got downfield to help block for Andre Holmes on a bubble screen. McFadden's longest run of the day went for 17 yards and it was Penn who laid the key block to spring him.
Shockingly good game for a guy who just got back from an ankle injury. He made five stops in the game, three of which came at or within two yards of the line of scrimmage. He led the team with 10 tackles (7 solo). Two more of those tackles forced the Chargers in to a third down play on their second touchdown drive. He can only do so much.
He led the Raiders in receiving with 4 catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns. His first catch of the day came on the third play of the game in which he burnt Chargers All Pro cornerback, Brandon Flowers, caught the pass in stride and outran the Chargers defense to go 77 yards for the score. On the Raiders' second scoring drive, he caught a back shoulder pass from Carr for a 30-yard gainer up the left sideline. He also had the Raiders' final touchdown of the day. Carr rolled right while Holmes was working his way to the back corner of the endzone and caught it for the score. Now if he could just stop dropping passes. He had two drops in this game, one of which put the Raiders in third and 20 and led to a long field goal attempt which was missed.
Tony Sparano, Greg Olson
They set out in this game to open up the playbook for Derek Carr to stretch the field. It worked like a charm. Not only did he have four touchdown passes but the running game got on track just as Sparano had preached last week. These guys were playing inspired on offense. The one blemish was the game-ending play call which resulted in an interception. They went for it all even though they had plenty of time to move down the field, take time off the clock, and either tie it with a field goal or win it with a touchdown. Then again, it's easy to play Monday morning quarterback with such calls. They were being aggressive just as they had all game long and trying to catch the Chargers off guard. It simply didn't work. It had worked well enough before that play to account for the highest scoring output the Raiders have had all season. So, they deserve credit for that.
Brice Butler - His big play was his 47-yard catch and run for the touchdown. He caught it about ten yards past the line of scrimmage and ran it the rest of the way for the score. All told he had three catches for 64 yards. And no drops.
Menelik Watson - A great first start of the season for Watson. He had several key blocks on good runs. His gave up one pressure for an incompletion and was penalized for illegal hands to the face. But overall, a big step up from his previous performances.
Maurice Jones-Drew - After averaging just over one yard per carry on 12 carries in two games, he had four carries in this game for 30 yards averaging 7.5 yards per carry. He also had one catch for ten yards.
Gabe Jackson - Didn't give up any pressures on the quarterback and had a couple good blocks on runs for decent yardage. Though he had one play in which McFadden had to slam into him downfield because he was in the way. And he was called for illegal use of hands once. Not flawless, but overall a good game.
He got off to a rough start, but made some nice plays later. He was called for holding on third down on the Chargers first drive and three plays later, they scored their first touchdown. To being their next touchdown drive, Brown gave up a 19-yard catch. The following possession, he started with a coverage incompletion and ended it a few plays later with a pass defended. Late in the fourth quarter, he gave up a 15-yard catch to help get the Chargers in scoring position. Then he stopped it with a very impressive pass defended in the endzone to hold them to a field goal. An up and down day.
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